Like a lot of people, Norma Cooper is worried about how her family is going to make it through the winter.
She and her husband live in Athens County on a fixed income, and they have a large family to support. Not all of the children still live at home, but some do and now there are grandchildren to help take care of, too.
Norma and her husband live on a little over $1,100 a month, and have a difficult time paying their bills. They heat their home with propane, and Norma knows it is going to be hard to pay for propane this winter, in addition to paying the other costs.
She is one of the hundreds of Athens County residents who benefit from the Lottridge Community Choice Food Center in Lottridge. Norma, along with two of her children and one grandchild, were at the center recently to enjoy the weekly free lunch and pick up some supplies.
The center provides a free meal at noon every Wednesday, in addition to providing food boxes, clothing, health care information and a wide range of services for area residents in need.
Lisa Roberts, director of the center, said that as more and more people fall into hard times in southeast Ohio, the number of new visitors to the facility increases every week. She often sees more than 100 families at food pantry and free lunch events, and said the lines include people who have never had to visit food pantries before.
Norma and her husband, for example, have always worked hard and provided for their family. Today, though, his health problems and the fact that they are getting older has them on a tight, fixed income where they are forced to rely on assistance programs and facilities such as the Lottridge Community Choice Food Center.
“It’s really great. It helps us out a lot,” Cooper said.
Jenny Lance volunteers at the center, and also brings her children along to work.
“I love to help,” Jenny said. “It’s not like a job. It’s just helping people.” One of her older children lives on his own and is getting by, but has no insurance and no money to pay for the medical care he needs, Jenny explained. Her son, like many people with no insurance, does not take care of different health problems as he should, simply because he can’t afford it, she said.
She sees people at the center every week who have no health insurance and do not have enough money to pay their bills. Jenny added that too many people today are forced to make choices people should never have to make, such as choosing between buying and medicine or buying food, or deciding between buying food for their pets or paying their utility bills.
And while Jenny and her family face their own struggles in paying all of the bills, she enjoys helping out at the Lottridge Community Choice Food Center.
Southeast Ohio residents and people and all across the country are facing desperate times today, but when area residents stop in at the Lottridge facility, they are able to relax, visit with each other and get a few things that they need in order to help them make it through another month.